The Social media has been ablaze this week with articles, debates, mud slinging and downright vicious attacks over the subject of bravery and courage. You would have to have your residence in a cave to have not been exposed to it through either the televised news media, recent magazine publications or your preferred social media outlet. One thing is sure, when it comes to real bravery, real courage and true heroism, America has certainly perverted the definition and twisted the perception of how we once defined these rare attributes.
This week I want to share my definitions of courage and how I recognize real heroes. You may not agree-you would certainly not be the first this week! I choose not to mention specific names but rather share stories of what bravery and courage looks like to me.
A female student who loved the Lord was among the victims killed in a senseless shooting in Columbine. When approached by one of the two gunmen and asked if she believed in Jesus she responded without hesitation, yes. She died of wounds to the head.
One of the twenty Christians shown recently being executed in the Middle east for their faith, was actually not Christian at the time of his capture. However, after seeing the bravery of the men who were executed for their faith before they reached him this man had a change of heart. When it came his turn to denounce his faith in Christ, he replied “their God is my God”. And with that became a precious martyr.
Twin brothers in Chicago were on their way to the High School basketball game when they were accosted by four men who wanted one of their coats. When they jumped one of the brothers the other brother placed himself between them and his brother allowing the brother to escape. The brother who intervened was shot and killed. He was just fifteen years old.
A woman who was burned by her husband in Pakistan when her husband threw acid on her, scarring her for life because of her conversion to Christianity, now spends her time working with other women who were burned for the same reason as an advocate and a support resource.
A promising NFL football star with a lucrative seven figure contract laid it all aside because of an overwhelming urge to serve his country in the war in Iraq. He traded his team colors for his country’s colors and was buried with honor as a fallen hero.
A woman who found freedom after being trapped in the world of the sex for sale industry now spends her time counseling other women who are looking for a way out, risking her life as pimps lose their profits.
In Sandy Hook 20 students lost their lives as did six teachers. One female teacher hid her kids in a closet and told the gunmen when they entered that they were in the gym. The students however panicked and began to run from the closet to escape, at which time the gunmen open fired on them. The teacher died from wounds as she put herself between the gunmen and her students. More then one teacher died that day doing the same.
Right here in Las Vegas last month some friends were cliff diving at Lake Mead. One of the teens jumped even though they were not a great swimmer and did not emerge from the water right away. Another friend dove in and located the friend and brought them up to safety but quickly disappeared under the waves himself. They found him the next day just under the water’s surface, our latest drowning victim.
These are my heroes. These are the men and women I would want to emulate in similar situations, the ones I would prop up as the face of courage and bravery. Maybe you have your own stories. Courage doesn’t have to be this dramatic. It can be seen in the single mom who works two jobs to take care of her kids when no father is present. It can be the long time addict who finally finds the strength to overcome his addiction and become a sponsor to someone else trying to do the same. Courage can be the deeply scarred burn victim that society doesn’t want to look upon who goes through life happy to be alive and more beautiful on the inside than their scars would indicate on the outside. Courage can be that teen at a party who stands alone and true to their convictions against drugs or alcohol or sex. Courage can be that person who comes to the defense of the unpopular kid in school who is constantly bullied. Bravery can be that young child fighting cancer who always has a smile for someone else engaged in the same battle. Courage can be the wife of that police officer killed in the line of duty as she hold back tears in a show of strength for her children.
My point is simple really-let’s give honor and credit where it is due, not where it is sensationalized. Let’s be careful in our tendency to idolize the ordinary and look past the heroic acts we encounter in others every day. Don’t fall for every story the media wants to feed us about who we should cheer and champion as our heroes. Let’s be sure we show our kids and grandchildren how to recognize courage, how to act courageously in the face of adversity and Who to call upon when our courage and strength is weak. And if I haven’t given you enough examples of true courage, feel free to pick up the Bible and start reading in Genesis.